Abandoned Seafarers: Africa  (1990 - 2000)

By: A. M. Mwangura



Introduction

It is my hope that the contents of this document can spur on my work to safeguard the liberty and dignity of all seafarers. The findings of this document indicate that 686 seafarers working aboard 43 ocean-going vessels were, between 1990 and 2000, abandoned in 17 major seaports of Africa.

May I please beg to thank Mr. James Smith, the ITF co-ordinator, France, for his permission to reprint the preface and recommendation. 

Special thanks goes to Mr. John Attenborough of the Missions to Seafarers, Mombasa, Kenya, for the valuable information he provided. 

I would appreciate it if any action could be taken to alleviate the problem of ship and crew abandonment by ship-owners.


Andrew Mwangura
P. O. Box 92273, Mombasa, Kenya
Tel: 254 (11) 31 51 51
Fax: 254 (11) 23 00 01
E-mail: Mwangura@yahoo.com

6th November, 2000

Preface

It is time to stop crew abandonment

Among the numerous instances of human rights violations which have been revealed over the last few years, the scandalous abandonment of both ships and crews illustrates the worsening social conditions within international trade operations.

The abandonment of ship and crew by a ship-owner, either following ship arrest by one or more creditors, or following a detention by port authorities for infringement of international safety rules has become commonplace today.

In France, 24 cases have been recorded by the International Transport Workers' Union (ITF) since 1997. According to a study carried out by the union, western Europe has become the region where most crew abandonment takes place.

In such cases, the crew usually have not been paid for several months, but at first persist in believing that the ship-owner will eventually pay and repatriate them. By staying on board, the crew exercise the only means of pressure available to them to avoid being totally forgotten and evicted.

The breach of contract between the ship's agent and the ship-owner quickly leads to the total interruption of supplies to the ship and to her crew. The port therefore finds itself with a ship confined to the quayside, with or without her cargo on board, but presenting a safety risk, having run out of fuel.

The reasons for this deterioration in the ship's situation are no mystery: it is the fierce competition brought on by globalization of the world economy.

Some ship-owners are tempted to manage their fleet on a shoe-string, with both crew and freight charges at their lowest, and use of an 'economic' flag: the result is ships which may be both old and ill-maintained and have a number of deficiencies with respect to international safety norms.

This unfortunate scenario is compounded by the fact that crews are often poorly trained and paid, sometimes speaking as many different native languages as there are crew-members.

All this is facilitated by the Flag of convenience (FOC) system: an absence of a genuine link between the ship-owner and the state whose flag his ship uses, leading to a dilution of responsibility among numerous intermediaries, further facilitated by the use of shell-companies.

This is basically the pattern even if some ships sailing under such flags respect international norms and have crews paid according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) or ITF rates.

The recourse to 'economical' ships by no means avoids crew abandonment in a foreign port, especially if the ship's value is less than her total debts. Abandonment becomes, in fact, a clever stratagem to get rid of one's debts and not to have to pay the crew.

It even happens that the ship-owner may buy back his ship at auction by means of a go-between and a borrowed name.

The global problems of crew abandonment calls for international solutions that can be applied in all countries.

Their implementation throughout Europe requires specific legislation and more effective co-operation between countries.

Recommendations, with regard to international legislation:

European countries should actively support IMO-ILO joint working session on crew abandonment, which aims to find practical solutions to the problems involved: repatriation, support for the crew members while stranded, clarifying immigration status, and guaranteeing the payment of seafarers' wages.

At the level of the European Union:

- All EU member states should ratify ILO conventions, in particular ILO 147 on minimum standards (with its protocal), ILO 166 on the repatriation of seafarers and ILO 163 and 173 on the welfare of seafarers; 

- The provisions of the EU directive 95/21 that govern the implementation of the Paris Memorandum of understanding and relate to compliance with the social conventions covered by ILO convention 147; make mandatory the inspection of social conditions during port state control ship inspections;

- Extend the provisions of EU directive 80/937 (which provides protection to workers in the event of an employer's insolvency) to apply to seafarers serving on all ships that call in European ports, under whatever flag; 

- The use of European ports should be prohibited to ships that do not comply with international minimum standards, including ILO convention 147; 

- Co-operation between Port States should be improved in order to increase pressure on flag states to abide by international legislation.


At National level

- Law of the Forum arresti principles should be recognised (that confers on seafarers rights to have salary claims tried in the country where a ship is arrested or immobilised for a prolonged period); 

- There is need to promote ratification by national governments of the international convention on arrest of ships (Geneva 1999); 

- The legal procedures for arrest and sale of ships where crews' salaries, essential for their livelihood, have not been paid, should be improved and simplified;

- First priority should be given to the payment of crews' salaries from the revenues from the auction of such vessels.

- More responsibility should be given to the Port states for ensuring that; abandoned seafarers have decent living conditions; have access to the national legal system to retrieve their wages, are repatriated at the ship - owner's or flag state's expense and their ship sold expeditiously in order to minimise the hardships frequently endured;

- Ship - owners and their agents should be made responsible and liable for their actions when abandoning a crew without wages or means of repatriation in violation of workers' and human rights (as set out in article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights);

- The provisions of the convention 163 and 173 on seafarers welfare should be incorporated into national legislation governing port activities; and to ensure their effective implementation.


Mr. James Smith
ITF Co-ordinator - France


Abandoned Seafarers (October 1990 - April 2000)

A Singapore registered passenger vessel M/s Nadj II 1992 was arrested by Kenyan authorities in October 1992 after it was discovered that it was smuggling human cargo to America and after her 22 Burmese crew abandoned her citing insecurity, unpaid wages and end of contract.

Her 352 Chinese passengers were left loitering along Mombasa Streets for 7 months before they were secretly smuggled out of the port in a midnight drama that almost ended in disaster after a vessel owned by a local shipping company (Southern Engineering Company) was involved in a crash with another Kenya Ports Authority tug boat M/T Tewa which had ferried some of the escaping passengers into a Honduran registered vessel M/v Cgul Venture at the high seas about 12 nautical miles from the Kenyan territorial waters.

M/v Nadj II is believed to be owned by an Arabian tycoon who is alleged to have abandoned the vessel after it was arrested by Kenyan authorities the vessel was chartered by a Chinese International smuggler, a Mr. Charlie, who is said to be involved in an international human smuggling syndicate.

Shipping sources indicated that mission code named "Operation Nadj II," was conducted with full knowledge of KPA official in charge of Marine Operations who is said to have forced the light house to allow KPA tug boats M/T Tewa, M/T Faru and M/T Elami to the high seas on pretext that they were undergoing engine test.

Others involved in this "Operation Nadj II" were Star Shipping Company who were the local agents of the Nadj II and the then deputy Provincial Police Officer, a Mr. Magero, who provided security to the tug boats and conducted a head count of the Chinese immigrants before they boarded the M/v Cgul Venture.

With all this operation the abandoned 22 Burmese Crew members were left under the mercy of the missions to seamen. 

M/v Nadj II escaped 3 months later to Saudi Arabia under mysterious circumstances. Two cargo ships - M/v Aldabra and M/v Al Thuria were arrested at the Mombasa Port in December 1998.

The St. Vincent and Grenadines registered M/v Aldabra was arrested following a suit filed by her 17 crew - members demanding US$ 50,612.33 as wage arrears and repatriation expenses. The crew were comprised of South Africa, Tanzanian and Kenyan nationals.

Owners of the vessels are Aldabra Maritime limited of Tortilla, British Virgin Islands.
The 25 crew members (all Sudanese nationals) sued their employer for underpaid wages, accruing wages and repatriation expenses all amounting to a whooping US$ 92,202.20 as at November, 1998.

The Al Thuria crew led by Hashim Osman al Hassan, the Shipmaster, complained about rampant exploitation by their employer. He said that they had been using detergents to clean themselves because such basic provisions as soap were not being offered. Only two crew aboard this vessel have written contracts.

M/v Al Thuria arrived at the Mombasa Port in October 1998 with a cargo of salt from Djibouti and was ready to sail off to Kismayu when it was put under arrest. In a sworn in affidavit the Seafarers told a Mombasa Law Court that they were not given work leaves and they were rarely paid wages in full. Those who decided to go on leave were forced to forfeit their salary.

The Panamanian registered general cargo ship has a gross tonnage of 2,929 metric tonnes and net weight of 1,796 tonnes. It is owned by a Seif Din Mohamed Mohmoud of Sudan.

A Belize registered M/v Sea Johanna was attacked by pirates off the Somalia Coast while sailing to India from Mombasa in December 1998. After five months of negotiations on ransom, the abandoned crew including ten Pakistani, six Tanzanians, two Indonesians, two Burmese and one Indian were set free near the Kenyan boarder in May 1999 whereby the Missions to Seafarers, Mombasa assisted them to return back to their native countries. The ship is currently held in Mombasa under the Admiralty Clause.

Twenty crew members of a Belize registered Cargo Ship M/v Mona-c were stranded at the Port of Dar es Salaam for more than 14 months as from November 1996 to May 1997. Pending the payments of an outstanding demurrage bill amounting to US$ 150,000 for delays in the arrival of cargo.

The Tanzanian Immigration Department issued detention orders forbidding the ship's crew from venturing out of the ship until the matter has been solved. The banned crew members included 11 Syrians, 7 Romanians and 2 Egyptians who had been working aboard the ship for between six months and one year.

M/v Mehenditi, was abandoned in the southern Tanzanian port of Mtwara in January 1998 following the withdrawal of her local agents, the National Shipping Agents Company (Nasaco), and the Company's subsequent refusal to pay the balance of the ships port charges.

The ship, which called at Mtwara on January 16, 1998, was required to pay US$ 190,856 as port charges through the NASACO but failed to honour the payment to Tanzania Harbours Authority (THA) due to the misunderstanding between the owners and the local agents over the remittance of the charges from the owners.

Nasaco was supposed to pay the money to Tanzania Harbours Authority, when the ship called at Mtwara port to unload her cargo but Nasaco only paid US$ 45,000. THA seized the vessel pending payments of the balance.

M/v Mehendinti arrived in Tanzania loaded with rice and was to take on cashewnuts on her way back calling at the ports of Dar es Salaam, Mombasa, Massawa and Port Louis.

Her abandoned crew were five Romanians of whom had not been paid for a year. They depended on fish they caught where they were anchored for survival. The Romanian registered 8750 dwt general cargo ship is owned by Romline SA, comp De Navigation.

Eleven Tanzanian Seafarers out of 14 who were stranded at Mtwara port, in southern Tanzania where their ship, M/v Mama Mary ran aground in April this year have not been paid for six months. The Tanzanian registered cargo ship was carrying cement and beer from Dar es Salaam to Mtwara when she hit a sand bar. She was towed to Mtwara port by a Mombasa Shipping Company, (Shipmarc) at a cost of US$ 100,000.

But when her owners, Tanol Holdings Limited, failed to honour the contract, the Mombasa firm took possession of the vessel, in lieu of payment, and took it to Mombasa port. The vessel sailed off while the 11 Tanzania sailors were ashore looking for food.

The "new owners", who had changed its radio frequency, took off with three Tanzanians on board, and all the belongings, including travel documents, of the 11 sailors.

However, when the eleven seafarers travelled by land to Mombasa, they were not allowed on board the vessel. They retrieved their travel documents and personal effects, and returned to Dar es Salaam.

The Tanzanian Maritime Authorities said it is not aware of the transfer of ownership of M/v Mama Mary to another Company. The ship is currently held in Mombasa under Admiralty law.

Early March this year a Resident Magistrate in Dar es Salaam Law Courts ordered a Nigerian registered ocean going vessel M/T African Queen to be sold to pay for outstanding wages, allowances, general damages, interest rates and other costs demanded by six seafarers who were manning the 1,805 GRT vessel.

The MT African Queen has been lying at Port of Dar es Salaam for the past 4 years after it was attached by the Resident Magistrate's Court in 1996.

The dispute over the vessel came about after the ship-owner abandoned the crew and the vessel after incurring a heavy dept in a bank and not paying the crew and Tanzania Harbours Authority (THA).

The Court permitted the ship owner to sell the vessel at the sum of US$ 79,990 to realise what was due to the master and crew. Anything over and above the figure was to go to the owner. The owners of the vessel are Ship and Shore Service Limited of Lagos, Nigeria. Her local agents in Dar es Salaam were Britannica Oil Company.

In January last year (1999), Kenya High Court Ordered a Singapore - registered ship at the centre of a row with the crew over unpaid wages auctioned immediately. The court ruled that Mv. Equator Royal be sold to raise US$ 67,477.50 which her 11 crew were claiming in unpaid wages.

The seafarers, acting on the owners' instructions, made trips between Singapore and Madagascar as well as to Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and El Maan in Somalia. The fall out between the crew and the owners began in July 1998, when the owners began paying some of the crew on half salary. The rest received nothing at all.

Matters came to ahead in October 1998 when the ship's master received a radio signal that the owner of the ship would not be remitting any more funds, and that the agents were withdrawing as a result. This happened when the ship was in El Maan, Somalia where the crew's safety could not be guaranteed.

It hurts to note that the ship's radio communications system was disconnected for non-payment of bills by the owners. Although the ship could not sail back to Singapore without radio equipment, the owner did nothing to alleviate the situation.

However, the crew managed to sail to Mombasa with the assistance of Somali and Kenyan Authorities, who allowed them to use the local radio frequencies. The seafarers arrived in Mombasa without money or supplies, were given assistance by a Mombasa based Afroline Marine Agency.

They later engaged attorneys to petition the Court to seize the ship whereby a warrant of arrest for the ship and also authority to provide food, water and other requirements to the crew until the matter was settled was issued.

The crew had six-month contracts, which expired in November 1998, but they had continued to carry out their duties on the vessel until February 1999. Ten of the crew members are from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the remaining one from Singapore. They signed a collective agreement with the Ship's owners between May 19 and 25th May 1998.

The Ship's owners were Thon Soon Lines PTE limited of Singapore. A Singaporean vessel, the MV Maheswaran, which was impounded in Dar es Salaam in December, 1997 was sold on October, 4th 1998 to a United Arab Emirates-based company, M/S Sunrise Shipping Establishment, for US$ 100,000. It had earlier been valued at US$ 450,000.

The proceeds were a US$ 70,000 debt, of which US$ 51,203 was owed to a Mombasa firm, North End Oil (ASI), for 150 tonnes of marine gas received on credit. The balance was owed to the crew, who could not be paid when the ship was impounded.

The ship had sailed to Tanzania after bunkering on credit and failing to honour its obligations at the Mombasa Port. The owners of the vessel abandoned it, along with the crew.

Rasiek Shipping Limited, owners of the MV Maheswasran, which was registered in Belize and managed from Bombay, India, had declared themselves bankrupt. The 5094.13 dwt Vessel originally had a crew of 21. Eleven left Tanzania when the ship's owners abandoned it. Those who remained were left to the mercy of the Missions to Seafarers, Dar es Salaam before being repatriated back to their countries.

A Honduras registered Cargo vessel, MV Natacha I, was auctioned in December 1998 in Mombasa to pay repatriation costs and wages for its 11 crew amounting to more than US$ 110,000.

Before being placed "under arrest" the ship was preparing to leave for Lagos, Nigeria where it was expected to discharge a consignment of steel and a boiler. The cargo was reported to belong to West Africa Building Material Manufacturing Company Limited and Pioneer Metal Product Company PLC.

The crew members - composed of five Labanese and six Indian nationals - had gone to court seeking orders to have the vessel auctioned to settle their wages, repatriation costs and other expenses. According to the crew team, the owner owed them US$ 110,000 in wages and other benefits. The Vessel was owned by a Lebanese national and registered at the port of San Lorenzo.

A Panamanian registered cargo ship M/V Vicko which has been lying at the Mombasa port for more than 13 months was on 23 February 1998 auctioned to off-set repatriation costs and wages for her 22 crew members and port charges amounting to US$ 200,000.

The abandoned crew members of the general cargo ship were comprised of Ghanaians, Filipinos and Croatians. The ship owners were Trans-Tec Services of the United Kingdom.

And another vessel, a Constantza, Romania registered cargo ship, M/v Siemeni, was on January 21, 1999 auctioned at Mombasa to off-set port charges, repatriation costs and wages for her 18 crew members amounting to US$ 78,989.10.

The 18 crew members were Romanian nationals and the ship owners were the Marwan Shipping and Trading Company of United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Five Russian Seamen of a Belize registered fishing vessel F/v Horrizon 1 are set to travel back home after getting an exparte judgement against their employer.

The Seafarers who are stranded (since July 13, 2000) at Mombasa port after their vessel was seized over a salaries dispute between them and their employee obtained court order to auction the vessel so that to, enable them recover the salaries arrears for 11 months.

Before the ship was seized they obtained an order which restrained the ship from sailing away, there after they obtained the restraining orders, the seafarers applied for the ship's owner to come and settle the arrears of which he didn't respond.

According to the court order, all payments will be made in US dollars or by bankers cheques to avoid fraudulent payments.

The Court also ordered that when the sale is sealed by the auctioneer and the purchaser a clear bill of sale completed by Admirality Marshal will be given to the purchaser to take away the vessel.

The Belize flagged fishing vessel which is 30 metres long and weighs 117 metric tonnes, was built in 1993 and is owned by a Kungurshev Vyeschelav of Russia.

The abandoned crew who are being taken care of by a Mombasa Ship Chandler are Pavlyukov Alexey, Avdeed German, Tyurenkov Ykov, Captain Alexander, and Tarasov Gennaday.


Table of Vessels, Flags and Number of Abandoned Seafarers In African Ports in Ten Years (1990 to 2000)


The following is a list of vessels, flags and number of abandoned seafarers in African Ports in the last Ten years (1990 - 2000).

 

Vessel Name

 

Flag

 

Abandoned Seafarers

 

Nationality

 

Port

 

Maheswaran

 

Belize

 

20

 

Indian, Indonesian, Burmese

 

Dar es Salaam

 

Mona-c

 

Belize

 

20

 

Syrian, Egyptian, Romania

 

Dar es Salaam

 

Sea Johanna (Twice)

 

Belize

 

21

 

Tanzanian, Burmese, Pakistani, Indonesia, Indian

 

Somalia and Mombasa

 

Horrizon 1

 

Belize

 

5

 

Russian

 

Mombasa

 

Seimeni

 

Constantza

 

18

 

Romania

 

Mombasa

 

Altair

 

Cyprus

 

22

 

Egyptian

 

Port Louis

 

Elena A

 

Cyprus

 

2

 

Ghanaian

 

Tamatave

 

Selin S

 

Honduras

 

18

 

Indian, Turkish, Egyptian, Burmese

 

Egypt

 

Natacha I (Ex Sabareni) (Twice)

 

Honduras

 

14

 

Lebanese, Indians

 

Somalia Mombasa

 

Semo

 

Liberia

 

3

 

Ghanaian

 

Tamatave

 

Amity Union

 

Malaysia

 

26

 

Vietnamese

 

Tema

 

Chaika

 

Malta

 

23

 

Russian

 

Lagos

 

Dubai Valour

 

Malta

 

4

 

Ukrainian

 

Nigeria

 

Eastern Star

 

Malta

 

23

 

Russian,

 

Suez

 

Golden Union

 

Malta

 

18

 

Bangladesh, Pakistani, Burmese

 

South Africa

 

Vessel Name

 

Flag

 

Abandoned Seafarers

 

Nationality

 

Port

 

Thetis

 

Malta

 

19

 

Greek, Sri Lanka

 

Port Said

 

Delta Freedom

 

Pakistan

 

17

 

Pakistani

 

Tema

 

Delta Peace

 

Pakistan

 

20

 

Pakistani

 

Durban

 

Atheras Bay

 

Panama

 

23

 

Russian, Vietnamese, Sri Lanka

 

Cape Verde

 

Clovoka

 

Panama

 

28

 

Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Greek

 

Dakar

 

Effort (Twice)

 

Panama

 

18

 

Greek, Romanian, Polish, Ghanaian

 

Lagos and Douala

 

High Glory

 

Panama

 

24

 

Ukrainian, Indian

 

Dakar

 

Stainless Hyogo

 

Panama

 

4

 

Russian, Vietnamese

 

Durban

 

Al Thuria

 

Panama

 

25

 

Sudanese

 

Mombasa

 

Vicko

 

Panama

 

22

 

Ghanaian, Romanian, Filipino, Croatian

 

Mombasa

 

Magos

 

Pakistan

 

5

 

Portuguese

 

Matadi

 

Dekabrist

 

Russia

 

20

 

Russian

 

Dakar

 

Tatyama

 

Ukraine

 

2

 

Ukrainian

 

Conakry

 

Neris

 

Russia

 

2

 

Russian

 

Sierra Leone

 

Santiago De Cuba

 

Russia

 

24

 

Russian

 

Freetown

 

SCHS 2019

 

Russia

 

2

 

Russian

 

Sierra Leone

 

Mehenditi

 

Romania

 

5

 

Romanians

 

Mtwara

 

Equator Royal (Twice)

 

Singapore

 

13

 

Burmese

 

Somali and Mombasa

 

Nadj II

 

Singapore

 

22

 

Burmese

 

Mombasa

 

Aldabra

 

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

 

17

 

South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya

 

Mombasa

 

Hasan Bey

 

Turkey

 

30

 

Turkish, Romanian

 

Dakar

 

Mama Mary

 

Tanzania

 

14

 

Tanzanians

 

Mtwara

 

Akademik Jangel

 

Ukraine

 

26

 

Ukrainian

 

Durban

 

Aldebaran

 

Ukraine

 

24

 

Ukrainian

 

Comoros Islands

 

Ilyakulik

 

Ukraine

 

25

 

Ukrainian

 

Lagos

 

Invent

 

Ukraine

 

2

 

Russian

 

Sierra Leone

 

Ivan Moskalenko

 

Ukraine

 

28

 

Ukrainian

 

Durban

 

Nikolay Nekrasov

 

Ukraine

 

25

 

Ukrainian

 

Mombasa